» ISP News » 

Three UK Secure Key Change to Boost 5G Wireless Broadband Plans

Friday, December 14th, 2018 (11:47 am) - Score 19,727

Ofcom has granted a small but controversial change to the part of the 3.6GHz band owned by mobile operator Three UK (H3G, UK Broadband Ltd.), which will give them access to a 100MHz block of contiguous spectrum that may result in faster 5G based mobile and fixed wireless networks. But BT, O2 and Vodafone aren’t happy.

Last month Three UK announced that they were committing £2bn to support the start of their commercial roll-out of future 5G based mobile and ultrafast “home broadband” technology, which will get underway from the second half of 2019 (here). Key to this is the fact they already have a lot of 5G friendly radio spectrum bands to their name (i.e. some frequency slices at 3.4-3.6GHz and a bit of 3.9GHz, 28GHz and the 40GHz band).

However today’s announcement concerns the spectrum around their slice of the 3.6GHz band. Under UK Broadband Ltd. they hold spectrum licences that authorises them to use 168MHz of radio spectrum in two separate 84MHz blocks at 3605 – 3689MHz (“lower frequency block“) and at 3925 – 4009MHz (“upper frequency block“).

Crucially they also have a 20MHz slice of spectrum at 3580 – 3600MHz, but at present a gap of 5MHz stops this from being linked up with their aforementioned lower block (they’ve also got 40MHz in 3.4GHz but that’s not relevant today). Three UK wanted to change this in order to create one big slice of contiguous spectrum (100MHz) and now they’ve got their wish.

The Approved Changes

• to shift its lower frequency block down by 5 MHz to make it adjacent to the 20 MHz spectrum block licensed to UK Broadband at 3580 – 3600 MHz;

• to reduce its frequency holding in the lower frequency block by 4 MHz, so that it would hold 80 MHz from 3600 – 3680 MHz (rather than 84 MHz from 3605 – 3689 MHz);

• to align the technical requirements that would apply to the frequencies 3600 – 3680 MHz with the technical requirements that currently apply to the UK Broadband licence in the 3.4 – 3.6 GHz band; and

• to allow a transitional period during which UK Broadband would continue to be authorised to use 3605 – 3689 MHz under the current technical requirements, whilst also being authorised to deploy 3600 – 3680 MHz under the new technical requirements. This transitional period would end from the later of 1 September 2019 or nine months from the date of the licence being varied..

Wireless networks much prefer having access to a large contiguous block of spectrum, which as Ofcom says would enable them to “offer increased peak speeds by using a larger carrier and potentially better coverage by having higher in-block power levels.” The alternative to this change would have been to auction off the 5MHz that split their bands and Ofcom didn’t feel that was necessary.

Ofcom Statement

We do not consider it likely that any benefit to H3G of gaining access to 100 MHz of contiguous spectrum, as opposed to separate 84 MHz and 20 MHz blocks, would be so significant as to provide H3G with an unmatchable competitive advantage over its competitors.

Further, even if H3G were to gain a substantial advantage, we consider it would be unlikely to be enduring as other providers will have opportunities to win spectrum in the future award. We therefore do not consider the proposed variation would be likely to have an adverse impact on competition such that we should not consent to the variation.

Finally, we have considered whether the variation would have an adverse impact on other spectrum users, and have provisionally concluded that it would not.

Meanwhile Three UK’s rivals have openly disagreed with Ofcom’s approach. BT (EE) felt as if the licence variation “would convey significant commercial advantage to Three … in terms of improved network costs and service offering,” while O2strongly objected” for similar reasons and warned it was “inconsistent with Ofcom’s statutory duties, including its obligations to promote competition and the efficient use of spectrum.”

Similarly Vodafone complained that Ofcom had given “undue emphasis to one duty – spectrum efficiency” and had not carried out an adequate competition analysis. “Ofcom could critically damage the nascent 5G marketplace,” warned the operator.

Three UK has previously criticised Ofcom for allowing EE and Vodafone to hold too much mobile spectrum (even though they could have bid for more of it if they really wanted), so perhaps part of this reflects Ofcom’s way of addressing that concern. No doubt Three’s rivals will look to correct for this decision when the next batch of auctions occur in 2019.

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
38 Responses
  1. Michael says:

    It’s great that ofcom have allowed this. The other three Operators need to grow up. EE retaliated when Three & O2 spoke out about them & Vodafone having a huge amount of LTE spectrum. Vodafone caused difficulties for Three when they won a block of spectrum in recent auction but due to Vodafone causing issues, Three had to pay even more money to have the block next to ‘UKbroadband’s’ block. EE & Vodafone think they can get whatever they want. The 5mhz would have gone left unused anyway. Thus now means these a lower 5mhz chunk up for grabs.
    Well don’t ofcom for actually doing good.

    1. Michael V says:

      *well done* ofcom for actually doing good.
      [Bad auto correct]

  2. Alex Ward says:

    Thank you Ofcom for seeing sense.

  3. Guy Cashmore says:

    Great news, gives hope to us in rural areas who are totally reliant on mobile broadband because of hopeless BT.

    1. Name says:

      Don’t be naive. Three will not build new masts in rural areas. They will upgrade existing ones like they did so far.

    2. Guy Cashmore says:

      We already have great 3G signal from an existing Three mast, so a mast upgrade to 5G should work well here.

  4. fed up says:

    So are 3 now going to address those places which have no service at all from them?
    I suppose the answer is probbaly no.

    1. Michael V says:

      With the 700mhz auction coming, that will make it even easier to cover more land mass. They’ve done really well with their VoLTE coverage on 800mhz, but all Operators have their black spots.

    2. Mike says:

      No they haven’t, they still don’t allow non-Three devices to use VoLTE.

    3. Chris says:

      VoLTE working fine on my never locked to any network iPhone on 3.

    4. Mike says:

      Three sells unlocked devices since ~2014.

    5. Mike says:

      According to Three devices purchased from them and iPhones bought from Apple support their VoLTE.

    6. CarlT says:

      The article may as well be about cheese for all it has to do with this point.

      May as well be asking if, as bits of the network have gone 24 hour, London Underground will start building new lines.

    7. Liono says:


      ‘No they haven’t, they still don’t allow non-Three devices to use VoLTE.

      get your facts right BEFORE spouting rubbish please.

    8. Michael V says:

      @Mike. Actually they have done really well with VoLTE coverage. Yes we need a device from Three to make use of that one network, but that’s just the way it is. I can only comment on coverage around South & Mid Wales.

    9. Mike says:


      I already corrected myself, please read all the comments in future to avoid being wrong 🙂

    10. Mike says:

      @Michael V

      Yeah I am sure it’s good for those that can access it, I get 4G almost everywhere but having to switch to the higher band for calls/txts means I can’t set my phone to 4G only and also get no service sometimes if no 3G coverage.

    11. Michael V says:

      @mike if you have Android, install LTE DISCOVERY. It accesses the phone’s network settings. U can set the phone to LTE only. Just remember the option it is originally on when you first change it. It’s UMTS/LTE ppl Auto, or something similar. [But Huawei block that app] also remember to change it back to receive calls. Hope U can find that helpful.
      That menu can also be accessed by *#*#4636*#*# I think that code is right. I can’t use it as I’ve now got a Huawei myself!

    12. Michael V says:

      @Mike. Sorry my last message was supposed to say 4G SWITCHER. NOT LTE DISCOVERY. Sorry…4G Switcher can force the phone to all LTE bands only.
      LTE DISCOVERY shows what frequency band number is. Sorry I got them mixed up.

    13. Mike says:

      @Michael V

      Yes I already have that but if I set it to 4G Only I can’t send/receive calls/txt, only data works on Three (no VoLTE), when I tried EE it was fine and the VoLTE icon was in the taskbar.

    14. Michael V says:

      @Mike. Ah Yes! You would need 4G signal on the 800mhz band. The phone sits on 4G 1800mhz by 1st choice. Though Three are deploying voice over 1800mhz so that will be more widespread. Also VoLTE over 2100 I’m seeing more of.
      It will come. Their set up is a little frustrating for us more tech minded guys!

    15. Mike says:

      I was in different places today and thought I’d give it a try with LTE only and the calling worked most of the time, sometimes refused to call though, much better than last time i tried it, not sure why I don’t get the VoLTE logo in the taskbar like with EE though, it did say VoLTE when calling though.

    16. Michael V says:

      @Mike. Three doesn’t really support different network type icons. Most phones will purely state 4G, e.g > LG G6. For LTE-A we typically see a 4G+ [P20.] I know Samsung shows LTE for 4G. My G6 dial button did show HD when it was sat on ‘Supervoice’/VoLTE. This Huawei P20 doesn’t show any difference within the dialer pad.

  5. New_Londoner says:

    Let’s see whether any or all of the other mobile operators put in for a judicial review. I’d be surprised if they didn’t.

  6. Fibre King says:

    Historically it was always Three complaining to Ofcom about rival networks’ spectrum allocation and utilisation. Now the boot is on the other foot.

  7. paul says:

    While you are all waxing lyrical on how great 5G expansion is, do any of you realise, or even care, on how detrimental the excessive microwaves needed to expand the network are to the human body and also to animals? Before you look at the benefits to your broadband speeds, you should look at how bad 5G will be for your environment and your health, if you think your broadband is more important you should be ashamed of yourselves!

    1. Dazza says:

      No, don’t care. I’m suitably ashamed. If only there was some proof of your concerns.

    2. Michael V says:

      5G-NR works on the MHz band just like LTE & HSPA does. I don’t believe there is a difference. All the technologies use high & low frequencies

    3. Name says:

      Yes Paul, and the earth is flat.

    4. Mike says:

      5G seems to have attracted all sorts of nutjobs.

    5. Simon says:

      Paul – there have been 13 trials since 1999 – NONE have produced any evidence – so stop waving that knackered branch around. You are just wasting your time and energy dude. I assume you don’t do much else? as someone with this view wouldn’t use a mobile phone – otherwise it’s pretty hypocritical!

    6. Mark Heywood says:

      Well said people are only interested in how fast their facebook speed is. People won’t see the speed difference as it is not for us it is for the machines and the military. You are spot on health wise 5g is the environmental disaster of the future and is another philidamide health disaster.

    7. Mike says:

      Seems 5G is already making people retarded and hasn’t even been installed yet, quite powerful indeed.

  8. Lee says:

    5g opends up to AI bigtime wake up chaps

  9. Michael V says:

    5G will bring benefits. Connected lamp posts, traffic lights, bins. Councils will be able to monitor street furniture & address any issues quicker. We need to make it work in the right way. For those against it, just don’t adopt the technology. For the most of us, we will enjoy it.

  10. CarlT says:

    Then they’ll connect a whole shedload of masts running this 100 MHz block together through a huge daisy chain and severely congest the backhaul to save a relative small sum.

  11. Michael V says:

    There really wasn’t this much negativity around 4G-LTE back in 2011 ahead of the first network launch!

  12. liono says:


    check your fairy tales before you start typing, this will stop you looking like a fool and then backtracking on your so called facts

Comments are closed.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Ultrafast ISPs
  • Gigaclear £17.00 (*40.00)
    Speed: 200Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Community Fibre £20.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Virgin Media £25.00 (*44.00)
    Speed: 108Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £25.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £28.00 (*38.00)
    Speed: 100Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £17.99
    Speed 30Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • NOW £21.00
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Shell Energy £21.99
    Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £22.00 (*32.00)
    Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Plusnet £22.99
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £60 Reward Card
Large Availability | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. FTTP (3998)
  2. BT (3125)
  3. Politics (2083)
  4. Building Digital UK (2007)
  5. Openreach (1944)
  6. FTTC (1914)
  7. Business (1800)
  8. Mobile Broadband (1584)
  9. Statistics (1483)
  10. FTTH (1369)
  11. 4G (1355)
  12. Virgin Media (1262)
  13. Ofcom Regulation (1224)
  14. Fibre Optic (1220)
  15. Wireless Internet (1217)
  16. Vodafone (916)
  17. EE (896)
  18. 5G (869)
  19. TalkTalk (812)
  20. Sky Broadband (781)
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact